Saturday, October 21, 2006

Drink Your Juice—It's Nutritious

Fruit juices have been slammed for being high in carbs and low in fiber. But get ready for a surprise: They do have redeeming qualities for your health.
Fruit juice has become the Britney Spears of the grocery store, typically scoffed at by those old enough to remember a time before ultra-low-rise jeans. Between being called liquid sugar by the anti-carb crowd and being blamed for the rising obesity rate among kids, it would seem that juices are simply not worth swallowing. (In fact, their sales dropped 1.4 percent between 2002 and 2003, the first decline in more than 6 years, according to a recent report by And mainstream nutritionists promote the whole fruit over juice for its fiber and pulp. But the truth is, some fruit juices do deserve a place at your table because of their nutrients and powerful disease-fighting properties.
In fact, there are times when juice is uniquely beneficial. After a workout, for example, it helps replace fluids and blood sugar and provides nutrients. Juice also comes in handy when eating is simply not convenient—when you’re driving, say, or traveling, but still want something with nutritional value.
Drink your vitaminsIn the beverage hierarchy, real fruit juice trumps soda and fruit-flavored drinks on the nutrition front. And a glass of 100 percent juice counts as a serving of fruit. But not all juices are equally healthy. Apple juice, for example, is a relative lightweight as far as nutrients go; a cup of the average brand offers 103 milligrams of vitamin C (thanks to added ascorbic acid) and 295 milligrams of potassium, but little else.
On the other hand, purple grape juice is fast emerging as a health-protective powerhouse, mostly because it’s rich in polyphenols, a class of antioxidants that protects against certain forms of cancer and heart disease. In fact, a small study from Korea (partially funded by Welch Foods Inc.) found that drinking Concord grape juice daily for 8 weeks slightly reduced blood pressure in men with hypertension. Meanwhile, tomato juice, a concentrated source of lycopene (an antioxidant linked with reduced risks of prostate, breast, colorectal, and lung cancers), may bolster the immune system, reduce bad cholesterol, and make blood platelets less sticky.
To increase juices’ nutritional value—and, of course, their sales—some manufacturers are fortifying them with vitamins (such as antioxidants A, C, and E); minerals (like calcium); or certain phytochemicals (like plant sterols). Musselman’s, for instance, now offers apple juice infused with vitamin C and calcium. Wyman’s and R.W. Knudsen have introduced blueberry juices that boast natural antioxidants, while Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise contains plant sterols that help lower harmful LDL cholesterol. Other companies are blending vegetables into their fruit juices, making it easier for you to get your daily dose of veggies.
Those extras don’t permit a bottomless juice glass, though. The calories can add up quickly. An 8-ounce glass of OJ, for example, has 112 calories—roughly the same amount as two medium oranges—which is why experts recommend only 4 to 6 ounces a day.
Choose your juiceTo squeeze the maximum benefits from each glass, buy only juices labeled “100% juice,” “pasteurized,” and “no added sweeteners” or “no sugar added.” And as with fruits and vegetables, it’s smart to aim for variety. “Rotate your choice of juices so that you get different color groups and different disease-fighting compounds,” advises David Heber, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Most Americans eat a diet that’s brown or beige. Juices can help bring more color into your diet.”

by Stacey Colino


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